“The Only Way We Can Make a Mistake is to Stop” (Sister Mary Rose McGeady)
Everyone suffers. We’ve all had tragedy in one form or another. Sometimes the tragedy is huge and noteworthy, and everyone is talking about it. My “tragedy” was quiet. Very few people even knew I had a “situation.” It was my choice to keep it to myself and that’s okay because it was the kind of thing that evolved over a few years, and I was sick of listening to myself. Even the people who loved me and knew the details were tired of it. As I was going through this I tried to do all the right things: I ate right and got plenty of rest, I exercised everyday, I went to church and prayed for endurance. I talked to a kind and knowledgeable professional. I eliminated all stress that I could and I leaned on my parents, my best friend, and my beloved uncle for strength. I did the best I could and when that wasn’t enough I did some more.
Recently I had an experience that made me remember that difficult time. The pain felt brand new but familiar. It was unwelcome, but helped me realize what I didn’t do during that time was advocate for myself within a complex medical system. I did not (could not??) do for myself what I did on a regular basis for my patients. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past day. Nurses are advocates. We hold our patients (sometimes literally) in the palms of our hands. I know what the chain of command is and I’m not afraid to use it. As nurses (and maybe as mothers, wives, and daughters) it’s common to put others’ needs before our own. (I will apologize here for using a gender bias but men still only comprise about 7% of the registered nurses in the USA.) We go to work sick so we don’t leave our units short staffed, we stay late to chart, we skip meals to make sure our patients eat their own, and we’re late to our own family events to comfort a stranger’s family member. As a professional group we need to advocate for ourselves with the same energy we do for our patients. We need to advocate for each other and be kind to one another. This will make us better nurses (not to mention healthier nurses) and our profession deserves this.
I did not have the happy ending I was planning on, which stunned me. Right up to that point, I was pretty sure the universe had my best interests at heart. If I had done things differently ten years ago it may or may not have changed my outcome. It doesn’t really matter, but as I reflect on that time, the only thing I regret is that I didn’t insist on trying a different approach. I won’t make that mistake again. It took me a long time to change directions and create a life that makes me happy. I would like to say thank you to the people in my life who came along for the ride.